The Internet can be an extraordinarily negative place, to the point where it might as well have been invented by Vigo the Carpathian. I really resist griping and complaining, meaning that while I may whine more than the average person on social media, I strive to whine less than the average comic book fan. In the past week I’ve seen some vitriol online that has kinda made me forget my relatively monastic Internet presence. I’m really mad. I’m pushing up my sleeves and getting down in the dirt. And if you are one of the colossal morons who made death threats against a comic book writer, I’m coming after you.
I’m revoking your membership to the comic book club.
You are not welcome here. Get out.
Over the course of the past several days, the events of the ultra-super-secret “Amazing Spider-Man” #700 have leaked online. This is the conclusion to the story started in the controversial “Amazing Spider-Man” #698, where it’s revealed that Dr. Octopus has switched bodies with Peter Parker, leaving him trapped in Ock’s dying body. All of this leads up to the launch of a new series, “Superior Spider-Man,” and the end of “Amazing Spider-Man.” Dan Slott, who can factually be called the world’s biggest Spider-Man fan, wrote these issues and a healthy stretch before, penning the fictional adventures of a fictional superhero, one who he loves with a passion that surpasses his most rabid readers. So of course he deserves death threats over a story he wrote.
Oh wait! No, no, no — only an emotionally stunted and immature individual would think that. There is no reason why anyone who creates a fictional thing for the enjoyment of other human beings should ever, ever receive death threats. I’m even going to go out on a limb here and say that death threats, in general, don’t really need to happen. Ever. Especially in the wake of one of the most traumatic incidents in the history of our nation. To make death threats against a comic book writer while the specter of death looms large over our country’s every thought is the height of insensitivity and stupidity.
These people that are so angered by the events of a comic book have to be leading perfect lives, right? They must have absolutely nothing else to worry about or expend their energy on. They must be in the exact right career with a happy household and an iPad Mini. They undoubtedly have a French bulldog and two cats, with adorably quirky names like “Poonces” and “Jammy” and “Zenelope.” They have a soda fountain in their home and a really cool car in their driveway, probably the one that James Bond drives. With everything so perfect, I guess I can see how being faced with a sole instance of dissatisfaction could send their mind into a red-tinted, steam-out-of-the-ears tizzy-fit. Is your life really that perfect?
On the other hand, maybe their lives are so far gone that the continued exploits of Peter Parker are the only thing keeping them together. But if everything in your life is so dreadful that you can only get your satisfaction from this one, narrow series of fictional stories — then get your life together. Don’t make death threats against a creator; make death threats against your own discontent. If things are so horrible for you that a status quo change for a not-real-thing sends you into an emotional free fall, then you owe it to yourself to take a step back and take a look at yourself.
Here’s the thing: Spider-Man isn’t going anywhere. Whatever the events of “Amazing Spider-Man” #700, Peter Parker has existed longer than television has been broadcast in color, you dopes. Have you read every Spider-Man comic ever? There are thousands. I can guarantee to you that there are enough Spider-Man comics that you have not read published within the last decade to get you through the duration of this new status quo. If you are so stubborn and narrow-minded that you absolutely must have Peter Parker in your life on a biweekly basis, do the work to make that happen. Don’t make death threats.
This might even come as a shock to you, but comic books aren’t just about Spider-Man. I’d argue that anyone worked up enough about one character to go out of their way to make an innocent, working human being fear for their life is not a comic book fan at all. You’re just a Spider-Man fan. Believe it or not, the whole “put upon hero who feels the burden of responsibility in the face of ever-present evil” is the template for nearly every work of fiction ever. Go watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or read “Invincible.” You can even wear a Spider-Man t-shirt while doing it, so you won’t be quitting cold turkey.
I get that comics are personal. Pretty much everything I own is the X-Men iteration of that thing. Cups, Christmas tree ornaments, t-shirts, wallet. I’m almost 30 years old and I now half-wish a day could go by where every person that sees me on the street didn’t immediately get the impression that I can name the first appearance of every character to ever wear an “X” belt buckle. In many ways, insane person who makes death threats behind the protection of the Internet, we are a lot alike. The only difference is that when it comes to comics, I’m smarter than you. Oh, and I would never make death threats.
Kneejerk reactions don’t make you seem like a superfan. The only time I made anything close to resembling a threat about comics, it was a sternly written letter to the editor (wherein I made no death threats because I am not a monster) about the “Age of Apocalypse.” I was eleven years old and had been a rabid X-Men fan for two years when suddenly I learned that Marvel Comics was canceling literally every comic book I was buying and replacing them with a nightmare-fueled line of post-apocalyptic insanity. I couldn’t handle it.
I did not know how comics worked.
This was well before the Internet entered into my life, so it wasn’t until I visited my local comic book shop (Box Seat Cards & Comics in Hendersonville, Tennessee) that I learned from an employee there that they were all miniseries. I sighed a heavy sigh of relief and purchased “X-Men: Alpha” alongside a big poster of that issue’s cover, which hung on my bedroom wall for years. I went from being so mad that I composed my very first letter, one that I proudly read aloud to my parents (who…I mean, come on, they had no Idea what to make of that) to going along for the “Age of Apocalypse” ride and having a blast.
That’s how comics work. Things change. Did you not read the “Clone Saga”? Or the deaths of Superman, Batman, Captain America or the Human Torch? You do know that Iron Man was replaced by a teenage version of himself for a while, right? Remember when the X-Men started wearing biker gear and X-Force was replaced by a group of crazy, fame-hungry narcissists? This stuff doesn’t stick. I don’t care how dire a situation Dan Slott puts Peter Parker in during “Amazing Spider-Man” #700, you are a damn fool if you think that’s going to be the one story that defies the most basic principal of superhero comic book storytelling, right after “putting pictures and words together.” There is seventy years of evidence that point to this not being permanent.
Just shut up, enjoy the ride or quit buying Spider-Man comics. You have to realize that these are not your characters to control. You can hug the existing comics tight. They can become part of your identity. You chose those comics for yourself and you have every right to be as passionate about them as needed (note: death threats are never needed). But the comics that have yet to be produced? You don’t get to make those decisions. You cannot control the fate of your favorite character. The only thing you have control over is your relationship with that character. Hating a new issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” does not erase one that you love from existence.
The biggest threat to comics is not digital, double-shipping or reboots. It is “fans” who personify and exemplify the absolute worst traits of our culture to an obscene degree. You are the reason the Comic Book Guy archetype came into existence, and you are the reason it still exists in shows like “Comic Book Men.” You are the reason that sitcoms forever see comic book readers as mentally stunted weirdos with debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder, who shun the light of day and companionship of others. Cut it out. I’m not one of you. The majority of comic book fans are not like you. You are an outlier and you do not speak for comic books.
Now I’m going to relax and read comic books that I love. I’m going give some new ones to my nephews for Christmas and be reminded of how much fun this art form can be. If you are next-level-crazy about Spider-Man right now, you would be well served by stepping back and doing the same.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts the podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics and is a writer for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre show Left Handed Radio: The Sequel Machine. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).